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All I Want Is Everything
By Daaimah S. Poole
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Daaimah S. Poole
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Since I could talk I could always remember singing along with my mom's Sade or Anita Baker albums. All I've ever wanted is to be a famous singer. I want the platinum plaques, the adoring fans, the Grammys, the chauffeur-driven limos, the stylist, the world tours. And I want the house, the man, and the life-I want it all. All I want is everything, and somehow, someway I'm going to try to make it!"
Kendra Michelle Thomas
As I wiped down the redwood bar, my only thought was that I couldn't wait to go home. It had been a long night of serving drinks and I was ready to go halfway through my shift. The television was tuned to the evening news with the volume down since no one was paying it any attention. I walked past two rows of assorted liquor lining the mirrored wall-everything from big bottles of Absolut, Grand Marnier, Stoli and Alize to a small sixteen-ounce carton of orange juice. There were two video machines at the end of the bar. Three women sat down in front of me. I placed white paper napkins in front of them. One was tall, had big eyes and hair in a ponytail flipped at the end; the other was like 4'11", petite with small features and a short,spiked haircut with blond and brown highlights. The last girl looked like the first two had dragged her out of the house. There were bags under her eyes, her body looked malnourished and her hair was limp, with a headband pushing it back.
"Ladies, what you havin'?" I asked.
"Can I get an apple martini with Grey Goose?" the petite one asked. The second one ordered a Bahama Mama and the other one asked for a glass of merlot.
"Kendra, how you doing?" the ponytail lady asked.
"Okay," I said. I didn't have any idea who she was. I squinted a little, trying to remember.
So she said, "You don't remember me? We went to high school together." She detected I was still having trouble remembering who she was.
"I'm Inez! And do you remember Belinda and Tiffany?"
Belinda looked familiar, just a little older, and Tiffany-I didn't remember her at all. When I looked at Inez again, she did start looking familiar. "We was in home room together. Do you still be with Chantel?"
"No I haven't seen her in years."
"How is your family?"
"My family is doing good."
"That's good to hear," she said as she continued her conversation with her friends. I served them their drinks and then finished straightening up. The group of women flagged me down again and said, "Kendra, can we get another round?"
I made them another round and brought them their drinks. Inez said, "Thank you," and pulled out her American Express card.
"Y'all running a tab?" I asked.
"Yeah, we can start a tab. Wow, I can't believe we ran into you. You still look the same-all slim. So what are you doing with yourself?"
"Well, we're out celebrating. We all had some big things happen. Miss Honey right there got engaged last weekend, and my husband and I just settled on our house in Durham, North Carolina. You want to see a picture?" she asked as she pulled pictures out of her bag. I glanced at the house. It was big single-family home with lots of windows and a huge lawn.
"That's a nice house," I said. Then she pointed to the other woman and said, "She just graduated from Rutgers' nursing program. That's why she looks all tired. So, yup, I have my house, my husband, and two lovely children. Are you married? Do you have any kids? So what else do you do besides this?" she asked, ambushing me with questions.
"No, actually, I just do this. I'm still with the same guy since high school. No kids, though."
She looked somewhat confused.
"Well, I'm sure you'll get married soon and kids will come. Are you still in school?"
"No, I'm not in school."
She looked at me like she was thinking, and it seemed she was about to ask me something else, but then she changed her mind.
"Do you have an ashtray?" Ms. Tired asked all sluggish.
I gave her one and then I looked at them like "anything else"?
One of my regulars, Lisa, was at the end of the bar dancing by herself next to jukebox wearing her Miss Piggy blond wig. She was older, about fifty-five, in shape and was good for trying to hook up with young guys. Another regular named Stacey was at the opposite end of the bar running game. She brought a different man into the bar every weekend. She would get them nice and drunk and be all up in their pockets. She would wink at me and make her latest victim tip me well. When you don't drink you get to see everything. I could sit behind the bar and observe all the action. Men like drinks that are going to take them there immediately, woman want to get their buzz one sip at a time. Woman get extra giggly when they've been drinking. They will come in classy and cute and leave sloppily drunk.
I still do feel hypocritical at times, because even though I don't drink I still pour the drinks. But it pays the bills-so what the fuck? Just as I turned the channel on the television, a couple walked up to the counter. The woman had big auburn braids going up into a crown, forming a bush at the end. She looked like she should be in a music video waving incense and holding candles. Her guy was the opposite: tall, baldheaded, and mean. Opposites must attract.
"Can I get a shot of Patrón?" a man said. If I didn't know the customer I would always ask the woman what she wanted first and would make sure to place the drinks in front of her. I learned early, a sure way not to get tipped is by flirting with somebody's man, but he ordered first. I started making his drink and then asked his lady, "What are you having?"
She looked me up and down and said, "Give me a minute."
"Kendra, can you make me a Crimson Tide, a Hurricane, a Sex on the Beach, and a Long Island Iced Tea?" Tia asked as she tried to organize all her loose dollars in her black apron.
"A Crimson Tide. I never heard of that. I'll have to look that up. And, Tia, you gonna have to ring your drinks up. I don't want to hear Julius's mouth." I said I wasn't getting yelled at for her.
She walked over to the computer and began typing in her drinks.
"It's not enough liquor in this daiquiri," a woman yelled from the other end of the bar. I told her I would be right there. I poured the man his shot and asked his lady if she was ready yet. She shook her head no. I went to the end of the bar, dumped the daiquiri, and made a fresh one. I don't know why it took her half the drink to realize that there wasn't enough alcohol.
"And, baby, can you make it a little sweeter?" she asked as she winked at me.
I added more strawberries and cherry grenadine mix, doubled the alcohol, reblended it, and poured it in her glass. She sipped it once again and gave me the thumbs-up. Everybody was waited on, so I decided to start cleaning up for the evening. My manager, Julius, came out from the back to see how we were making out for the night. He pulled up his droopy pants and scratched his balding brown dome. The couple left and I started washing the dishes by dipping the glasses in the blue disinfectant. The trio of women flagged me over to them again.
"Another round please, girl? These drinks are good. Keep them coming," she said. They were laughing and joking, and being very loud. Then one turned to me and said, "Kendra remember you was voted most likely to succeed?"
"Yes, I remember."
"So Kendra, what happened?" asked Belinda, the ponytail-wearing woman asked a little perplexed.
"What happened to what?" I asked with an attitude.
"You know, like with your life. You are supposed to be famous. What are you doing bartending? You suppose to be somewhere singing, being rich by now. You was like going to be like the next Mariah Carey."
Her friend stood up and tried to shhh her. "She is drunk. Don't mind her. Damn, two drinks and you trippin'. Shut up, Belinda," Inez said. I acted like I didn't hear what she said and ignored her.
"No, this shit ain't funny," the woman slurred.
"You drunk. Shut up, dumbass," Inez said to her friend.
"You shut up, Inez. I'm not drunk. I know what I'm talking about. I know how much I had to drink," she said as she stopped talking to her and turned her attention back to me.
"Kendra, I am so sad and sorry to see you here. I mean I can't believe you wasted your voice and all your talent. Like, you was a real good singer, Kendra. I remember you singing at school. You used to sound like Mariah Carey. Like an angel for real. What happened, for real? I'm not being funny. I mean, this is all you did with your life?" she asked again. This time I couldn't even act like I didn't understand or hear what she was talking about.
"Let's go. Your ass is drunk," Inez screamed at her friend as she pulled her away from the bar. The tired girl just shook her head, like she was thinking the same thing.
"Inez, get off of me. Why are you fronting when you just said the same thing when she walked away? I did not. Let's go!"
"I'm not done yet."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I didn't! Get your stuff," She said as she looked to me to see if I believe she was talking about me too!
They went back and forth among each other as I walked away to the other end of the bar. I could still hear them talking their voices were traveling across the bar.
"Tell your girl to shut up," Inez told the tired one. "Carry your girlfriend out. She always ruining shit."
"I told you to leave her home." Inez helped pull the tall drunk girl out the bar door. As soon as they left I went and removed their glasses.
They tipped me twenty dollars. Any other night I would have been glad someone was being generous, but tonight it felt like they pitied me and thought I needed the extra cash. Fuck them, I thought. I was called away again by There's Not-Enough-Liquor-in-My-Daiquiri. She had found some old granddaddy to sponsor her and her friend's drinks. The old man peeled money out of his wallet, one twenty at a time, and they began ordering.
The rest of the evening was okay. Finally the last customer walked out of the restaurant. I locked the door and counted my register, then my tips. I had made one-fifty for the night-that wasn't bad. I wiped down the counter and turned off the television. I mopped the floor and put each stool on top of the counter. I said goodbye to Julius and the other waitresses. The entire way home I kept thinking about the comment from that girl from high school at every red light. It kept echoing in my head. I don't even remember her name and probably won't see her again, but she just don't know she fucked up my whole night. I thought I had my life together, but not like theirs. Damn, they the same age as me. They only twenty-five. How do they have their shit together already? How are they so on point? God damn. Especially Ms. Two-Kids-Great-Husband-and-Big-House. I bet that other one can get any man she wants, and she is a nurse. I bet she has a big house or condo and just is living the life too! How did my life get so fucked up? How did I end up in this dead-end-ass job? And how did she remember my dreams when I'd forgotten them? I've always wanted to sing. I've been singing since I could remember, and now I don't sing at all.
"Sing it, girl, sing it! Like you have some feeling!" I heard my friend Chantel's squeaky voice shout from the first row of the empty school auditorium.
"I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky. Think about it every night and day, spread my wings and fly away. I believe I can soar, I see me running through that open door. I believe I can fly, I believe I can fly, I believe I can fly." I tried to sing, even though I was hoarse from practicing every day. Everyone was listening intently, until a tall, lanky, pimple-faced boy named Terrance walked up to the stage and I heard him say something smart like, "Next."
I stopped singing and said, "What did you say, Terrance?"
"I said 'next.' Get your non-singing ass off the stage."
"Make me get the fuck off the stage," I said as I looked around to see if Mrs. Drake, the music teacher, was anywhere in sight.
"Yo, don't be mad at me 'cause you can't sing and your chest is flat."
"Your mom, bitch," I snapped back.
"You calling my mom a bitch?" He jumped on the stage and acted like he was going to fight me. A few other students intervened and separated us. I was not scared at all. I wish he would have hit me. Other boys were coming up to him saying, "You don't fight girls, man." He was still saying stuff and trying to get to me like a little girl.
"Let 'em go, because the minute he touches me I'm going to bring my brother up here to knock him out."
"Yeah, whatever Dracula. You just need to get that fang fixed and shut up," he said.
"Make me shut up." I jumped in front of everyone and put my finger up to his temple.
"You lucky you a girl," he said, backing away from me. "No, you lucky," I said as I walked away from his dumb ass. "That's why I hate immature-ass high school boys." I stomped down the stage steps. Chantel met me at the bottom of the steps and said, "Don't worry about him." She was a petite girl with big uncombed curls in her hair and dark chocolate skin. She was very stylish and coordinated, and everything she wore was a designer name.
"Trust me, I'm not," I said calming myself down. I had shut him right up. He was just trying to get me offstage so him and his friends could do a stupid dance routine.
"Girl, you know you can sing. Last year at the talent show when you hit that high note, people were crying. I saw it with my own eyes. One day you are going to be rich and famous and he's going to be trying to get an autograph."
"You think so?" I laughed as I grabbed my bag off the chair and walked toward the door.
"Definitely. And when you make it big, just don't forget about me."
"I won't forget about you. I'll let you be my backup singer." I laughed.
We walked down the hall to our lockers. I was so excited that our school talent show was coming up-and ours was not an ordinary talent show. It was a big deal. Everybody from all these other schools and people who already graduated would come to see it. People would always come up to me and say, "What you going to sing for the talent show?" or "Let me hear you sing." I had been practicing every single day. I was a senior so it was my last year, and I had to go out with a bang. I was singing R. Kelly's song "I Believe" because it was powerful and I knew I could do it justice. I wanted to sing a song that was in my range. That's how people mess up, singing songs that are too strong for their voices. My music teacher said you always have to make a song your own, and I planned to do just that.
"Walk me to the bathroom," I said to Chantel.
We walked into the bathroom to check my hair. It was black with a part in the middle. My skin was cocoa-brown, I was 5'7", and super slim. My black hair stopped at my jawline. I really think I'm way too skinny. People think being skinny is the best thing. Being skinny is not cool. I don't have any breasts and I've been called everything from Itty-bitty Committee to Piper, but I know I look good, so it doesn't even matter.
"Well, I have to get to work. I'll see you tomorrow," I said as I gathered my belongings and walked out of the bathroom.
"You need a ride?" Chantel asked as we walked through the steel-green double doors and out of the building.
"You driving?" I asked, surprised.
"Yeah, my mom bought me a car," she said, smiling.
"That is so nice. I'm getting a car too!"
"When?" she asked like she didn't believe me.
"Probably in like two months. I have been saving my money and my brother is going to take me to get my license."
"How much you have saved?"
"A couple hundred," I said.
"I don't think you can buy a car for a couple hundred," she said like she knew everything.
"You can. My brother John got his car for cheap. He knows all the places to go. He knows about all that type of stuff."
"Oh, okay," she said twisting her lips to the side as if she still didn't believe me. I really did have four hundred saved for my car.
Excerpted from All I Want Is Everything by Daaimah S. Poole Copyright © 2007 by Daaimah S. Poole. Excerpted by permission.
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